Charge: Spinster/Old maid
Details of violation: A woman who is unmarried past the conventional age of marriage
Sentence: A life of ridicule and stigma
Confession of the accused
I actually hate to say this in public, but I am your modern-day spinster. The term ‘spinster’ comes from 17th century England when spinning wool was one of the few acceptable occupations for single women. I, on the other hand, have never spun wool in my entire life. Quite frankly, wool is so last season; it’s all about cashmere these days.
Also, my only friend in this world isn’t a cat. I’m not angry, sad and depressed. Okay, fine, I am all that and more on bad days, but really, aren’t all women? I’m neither a man-eating Samantha Jones nor a prudish, frumpy librarian with a tight hair bun and glasses perched on my nose. And above all, I don’t swing the other way or play for the other team. Each time I don’t pick up the phone, please do not assume that my loneliness drove me to slit my wrists and my last remains are about to be consumed by my pet cat. And for the record, I really don’t have a cat!
I don’t think I was much too selective with suitors in my prime age, because really you should see my line of past crushes. If you’re underachieving, I’d find you yummy, a bit on the neurotic side, give me some of that, and if you’re ill-mannered, let’s go home! I also didn’t purposefully fritter my prime age of marriage because I was much too independent. All my savings hang in my closet and unless retro becomes fashionable, I am officially bankrupt.
Are you confusing me with those lucky divorcees? Don’t — those blessed women had the good fortune of tying the knot at least once!
Growing up there was only one thing my mother, grandmother and my best friend warned me about. I’m sure it’s the same thing my mother’s mother and her best friend warned her about. “No matter what you do, don’t end up like Aunty Rukhsana.” You know, that one woman in every family who either chose not to marry or whose circumstances didn’t allow her to get married. It didn’t matter if that same woman was one of the most fun aunts you had and looked happy and content with her share of life’s lemons; no one cared if she had a PhD in microbiology and travelled the world, or the fact that she completely supported herself. To the rest of the family, she was only one thing — a failure.
What I should’ve known
It’s really my own fault that I didn’t get married because I didn’t know how to COMPROMISE. Had I been able to make peace with the emotionally abusive creep my parents set me up with, I wouldn’t be where I am today. No matter where I travel, what my achievements may be or what my goals in life are, they all mean absolutely nothing if I don’t have a ‘partner’ to share it all with.
Now that I have made this grave mistake, I must serve a lifetime as unpaid domestic help for my family. This also includes taking care of any or all babies that my married sisters and cousins will bring to this world. Because it’s not like I’m ever having any of my own and this is the only way I can enjoy that very small glimpse of the wonders of raising snotty rugrats.
Media coverage of the spinster trial
It’s not just my mother and the rishta brigade who are obsessed with my single status; the media too tries to showcase me and my fate in all its despicable glory. But even before television, good old misogynistic William Shakespeare called one of our kind a ‘shrew’ in one of his plays and thought it was oh-so-important to tame us. If you think shrew is an endearing term, let me tell you how Webster defines a ‘shrew’: “A small furry nocturnal animal with a long pointed snout and beady eyes and/or an ill-tempered scolding woman.” I don’t know which definition suits me better — I’m hoping it’s the former. The know-it-all bard also said in his plays that the fate of women who died unmarried was to lead apes into hell.
When I’m not leading apes into hell, I am featured in a card game called Old Maid. At the beginning of the game, a red or black queen is taken out from the deck and then the cards are dealt. Whoever ends up with the queen that doesn’t have the same colour pair, ends up as the loser — or more specifically — the old maid. There are special decks of Old Maid cards also available where the queen is replaced with a very graphic drawing of an old maid — which looks like your everyday witch having a very obvious bad hair day.
Jane Austen. Blame this profound writer and visionary for encouraging women into the scary territory of spinsterhood. She spent her entire life as a writer and churned out book after book that would be read by generations to come. What she traded in its place was a life of babies and dependence on a man; wasn’t she a sore loser?
Elizabeth I, Queen of England. Don’t just call her queen, call her the “virgin queen”. Because really, what’s the big deal if she ruled England and Ireland for 45 years. Who cares if she was so distraught after watching her father King Henry’s countless “marital activities” — such as killing Elizabeth’s mother and changing wives quicker than underwear — that she herself refrained from marrying altogether. Or her irrational fear of dying from childbirth. Or the fact that she wanted to reign supreme — and not have her power stolen or manipulated by a man. She’s still incredibly stupid because she didn’t join someone in holy matrimony!
Published in The Express Tribune, Ms T, August 26th, 2012.
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